View Full Version : The meaning of 2001: A Space Odyssey

10-25-2003, 07:22 PM
Here is a word for word "lowest level" explanation of the plot of 2001: A Space Odyssey, compliments of Stanley Kubrick himself:

"You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression.

Then you have a second artifact buried on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man's first baby steps into the universe- a kind of cosmic burglar alarm.

And finally there's a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system.

When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a forcefield (or stargate) that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he's placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination.

He is reborn, an enhanced human being, a star child, a superman, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man's evolutionary destiny.

Any thoughts?

10-25-2003, 09:16 PM
I think that's the bottom theme anyway. This movie blew my mind when i saw it the first time. The book explains it quite well, better than the movie.

It's just staggering to think that the Star Child would be as further advanced from humans as the humans were from the man-apes. Who knows what possibilities await for the Earth.

I liked Kubrick's little disclaimer in the introduction of the book...."remember, this is only a work of fiction. The truth, as always, will be far stranger."

10-25-2003, 11:17 PM
But mind you that the film 2010 sort of tried to explain 2001, however in my view it wasnt a good film (2010)
2001 on the other hand is a subject for long discusions I had a long philosophical discussion with my brother one day about 2001, I think I can talk forever about that film

10-26-2003, 02:43 PM
What made 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic was its use of realism in science fiction. 2010, the movie lowered the standard of reality and made the movie more into the traditional drama sci fi movie that we've come to be used to. I was surprised when I read the novels about a decade ago how boring they were compared to other science fiction I've read. The collaboration of the first novel and the making of the movie translated into a sparkling gem of a stunning visual epic movie.

Johann's helpful expanatory excerpt is great and about all I can handle at the moment.

10-26-2003, 05:56 PM
Luckily Lord Stanley passed on 2010.

Hyams had great hopes (and inspiration) but it falls far short of the revolutionary film that preceded it.

If you want to do a little research on 2001: ASO, see a Canadian film called Universe which was an inspiration for Kubrick. It came out in 1964, produced by the National Film Board. The "voice of HAL" is also the narrator of Universe (Canadian Rain replaced Martin Balsam).
You will see the seeds of 2001 if you see this little documentary on our Milky Way Galaxy (and solar system). It runs about an hour in length.

The original titles for 2001 were

Journey To The Stars
How The Solar System Was Won

oscar jubis
10-28-2003, 12:59 AM
Any reactions to this excerpt from Pauline Kael's review?

2001 is a celebration of cop-out. It says man is just a tiny nothing on the stairway to paradise, something better is coming, and it's all out of your hands . There's an intelligence out there in space controlling your destiny from ape to angel, so just follow the slab. Drop up.
It's a bad, bad sign when a movie director begins to think of himself as mythmaker, and this limp myth of a grand plan that justifies slaughter and ends with resurrection is the most gloriously reduntant plot of all time.
In 2001, desth and life are all the same: no point is made of Gary Lockwood's death and the hero doesn't discover that the hibernating scientists have become corpses. That's unimportant in a movie about the beauties of resurrection. Trip off to join the cosmic intelligence and come back a better mind. And as the trip in the movie is the usual psychedelic light show, the audience doesn't even have to worry about getting to Jupiter. The can go to heaven in Cinerama.

10-28-2003, 01:10 PM
Her views have nothing to do with the film Kubrick made.

It was a knee-jerk reaction. (One I'm sure she regretted later).

Cary Grant famously walked out of the premiere, shouting:
"Will somebody please tell me what the hell this movie is about!"

03-16-2007, 12:52 PM
I finally read the novel that Arthur C. Clarke wrote for the film and it differs slightly.

The first tool the man-apes figure out how to use is a sharp, pointy rock (about 6 inches long) to kill a warthog, not a bone-club.

Moon-Watcher experiences his father dying but doesn't know it's his father- he drags his corpse under a bush and leaves him there.

The first monolith is luminesent, it "glows", it radiates oscillating lights. And Clarke describes it as "transparent".

The astronauts explore the excavation site with a BUS, not walking down a ramp- and the whole scenario is explained differently.

Actually all scenarios are explained differently than how Kubrick shows us cinematically. Dr. Heywood Floyd's actions and mission duties are slightly different.
In fact the whole book is slightly different from the film.

It keeps in exact spirit with the film, but Clarke's writing seems more a technical explanation than an actual explanation.
(Like how the lady in Orion III has velcro on her slippers)
Kubrick's quote in the first post above is your "actual explanation"

The novel is dedicated to Kubrick:
To Stanley

03-17-2007, 05:44 PM
I found it interesting that the entire film was shot in the studio. Not one frame is shot on location. Kubrick used a technique where he shot the actors on sets and projected slide backgrounds over them, flooding the foreground with enough light to elimate the image on the actor's faces. The camera lens shot through a prism that split the light from the two sources. Instead of the usual undercranking done with models, special effects artist Doug Trumbull used overcranking to time the movement with the Strauss music, an effect which worked perfectly. Finally, since the Cinerama process appeared nearly dead, Kubrick decided to go with Superpanavision 70 (anamorphic 70mm). Although the orginal posters claimed "Shown in Cinerama" (three projection system), no prints were ever made in that format. I saw it in 70mm in downtown Chicago at the Cinestage (a theater that no longer exists). Naturally, we were all high for the special event!

The Academy did not offer a special 'make-up' prize, according to Kubrick, because many members thought he used trained apes for the opening sequence (that's a true story!).

oscar jubis
03-17-2007, 06:54 PM
Johann and Cinemabon: Thanks for two highly interesting posts. I learned a lot today about Kubrick and his (and Clarke's) 2001.

03-18-2007, 08:59 AM
Yes indeed the whole film was shot in a studio.

But some of the still images in the beginning were done by a second unit crew on location.

Leave it to Peter Greenaway to find the one fault with the film.

He said when Kubrick puts a real baby ape next to the adults it ruined the film for him. He said the difference between them is glaring.

This is Ground Control to Major Tom...

03-22-2007, 01:20 PM
I spend my days off at the Ottawa U library, which has an unbelieveable film book collection.

I read a book lightning fast and it's probably the most intimate look at the films of Stanley Kubrick ever published.

It's by Geoffrey Cocks.
THE WOLF AT THE DOOR: Stanley Kubrick, History, & the Holocaust

It knocked my head sideways with incredible insight into the M.O. of the Grand Master.

The scholarship of this tome is top of the line.

This guy knows Kubrick better than just about anybody. He puts Kubrick's life and career in mind-blowing context. he uses quotes from those who were the closest to him, like his wife Christiane.

The German axis of Kubrick's life is the zenith of the book, how the Holocaust is one of the main bases for Stanley's worldview and how it permeates his filmmaking.

The scope and concise-ness of this book is astounding.

Cocks explains how Max Ophuls, Freud, Nietzsche, the films of Fritz Lang and all kinds of other things informed Kubrick's work, like how the "fantastic and almost journalistic" stories of Franz Kafka were his literary model.

He talks about the "Blue Mercedes" that Tom Cruise is pushed into on the New York street in EYES WIDE SHUT, he talks about Nazi images and sentiments that are depicted in his films- the father in Clockwork Orange (Godfrey Quigley) who gives a Nazi salute, the shots in Full Metal Jacket with swastikas, the German (airplane kit) designs of the ships in 2001, and a ton of others- I can't tell you how valuable this book is.

Power and it's affects on human beings.
Machines and how dangerous they are.

Some quotes:
Kubrick's films display a certain, if also limited, faith in the audience to engage in a serious examination of important matters.

2001: A Space Odyssey was deeply influenced by THUS SPAKE ZARATHRUSTA (1892), which was a call to an entire generation to throw off the dead weight of scientific "certainty" about the world outside and create a world of becoming within each human being. Transendence.

He talks about viewing the films as such:

He discusses Kubrick's way of constructing his films as dreams, modern and postmodern at the same time, with psychological ideas thundering in, conciously and unconciously.
He uses lots of quotes (don't you just love quotes?) like this one from S.K:

"As a member of the audience, I particularly enjoy those subtle discoveries where I wonder whether the filmmaker himself was even aware that they were in the film"

Just read it .

If you love Kubrick's work, read it.
You'll love it.

You'll discover so much.

Scientist Rotwang from Metropolis is the inspiration for Strangelove.

Strange-GLOVE, get it?